Colchester United FC Meeting The Opposition.

Colchester United FC Meeting The Opposition. 

Tranmere Rovers ‘relieved’ manager Micky Mellon of his duties last Sunday, following a home defeat to Newport County. 

It was an awful performance by The Whites at Prenton Park, the goal scored by midfielder Regan Hendry certainly not enough to get a point as the game ended 3-1. 

Colchester come into the game this weekend, at The JobServe Community Stadium, on the back of a good away point at Leyton Orient. 

Ben Garner’s side will be hoping to replicate the result against Rovers from last year, Junior Tchmadeu netting the winner in the 95th minute. 

Ahead of the ninety minutes, I spoke to a supporter of The U’s in Max Harrington. 

Colchester finished 15th in League Two last May, they’re now placed 21st as we enter the ‘business end’ of the 2022-23 season. How would you describe the campaign so far? How much of a worry is relegation? 

So far it’s been yet another dismal season for the U’s, on the whole performances have been poor and we’re constantly looking over our shoulders. As of writing this the gap is only 6 points and given the form we’re in, relegation is a real worry.

In the January transfer window, players such as Exeter City striker Matt Jay, Port Vale defender Connor Hall and Stevenage midfielder Arthur Read were recruited. How have they settled in at The U’s so far? 

We had a good January window, we also signed left back Connor Wood, centre back Fiacre Kelleher and striker Tom Hopper. Kelleher and Hall have looked the best of the bunch, Read has looked good and Hopper just needs the service. It’s funny because everyone you speak to says how amazed they were when we signed Matt Jay, but he hasn’t been the player we expected so far. It’s obviously not all his fault but as fans we’re certainly looking for more from him.

Colchester’s manager is former Charlton Athletic boss Ben Garner, he was appointed at the start of this month. How would you describe his playing style and relationship with fans so far? 

It’s very early days, we strangely welcomed him at his first home game on the speakers half way through announcing the team which is classic Col U. From the small sample we’ve seen and from what we’ve heard he’s going to bring an open attacking style of play which we’ve been desperate to see for a while now.

With Garner being Colchester’s third manager this season, how important is it for him to be the correct appointment? 

It’s very important, mostly because we want to see an external manager work so the owner doesn’t go back to constant internal appointments. It’s also important because we need stability and we need to kick on and build something, so hopefully we can do that with Garner.

Colchester’s chairman is Robbie Cowling, he has held the role since 2006. What are your thoughts on him and the plans that he has for the club? 

Most U’s fans would probably say they aren’t the biggest fan of Cowling. He’s certainly ran us well off the pitch, on the pitch has been a different matter. He certainly put his money in his pocket in Jan and looks to have given up on the poor internal managerial appointments. We just want to see success on the pitch and at the moment he is helping us to do that.

One man to watch out for on Saturday afternoon is Noah Chilvers as he has netted four goals and picked up an assist in 35 games. How would you describe his playing style and his importance to the team? 

It’s funny because in the last few games Chilvers has been nowhere near his best and lots of people are wanting him to be dropped. On his day I think he’s our best player, he can influence a game and is a real threat in the opposition’s final third. Hopefully he can get out of the rut he is in and we can see him back to his best.

Where will the key battles be played out at The JobServe Community Stadium? 

We’re currently useless in attack so it will become a question of can our defence which has looked ok keep a clean sheet and hopefully we can nick a goal to win it.

What is your score prediction? The last time the two sides met Josh Hawkes and Jake Burton netted in a 2-0 win for Tranmere. 

I can see this game being a 1-0 win for either side, I don’t expect to see many goals. I’m trying to be positive so I’ll go with a 1-0 win for the U’s.

What are your thoughts on The Rovers and the sacking of Micky Mellon? 

I don’t think Mellon can have too many complaints as it hasn’t been a particularly great season for you guys. Hopefully you don’t have a new manager bounce on Saturday!

Colchester United FC are this week’s hosts at The JobServe Community Stadium, Tranmere have a mixed run of form here. The last win at The U’s came in late March 2019, James Norwood and David Perkins netting as Micky Mellon’s men were gunning for promotion. 

Newport County FC Meeting The Opposition.

Tranmere Rovers are back on home soil this Saturday afternoon as they take on Newport County, The Whites were beaten 2-0 away at Gillingham last weekend. 

Graham Coughlan’s Newport have failed to win any of their last five and they head to Merseyside looking for their first consecutive set of away victories at Prenton Park. 

On Friday, Tranmere recalled creative midfielder Rhys Hughes from his loan at Chester. The 21-year-old scored one and assisted one during his time at the Deva Stadium. Will he bring a change to the starting eleven?

I spoke to Newport County supporter Jamie Harris from the 1912 Exiles Podcast. 

Newport County finished last season 11th in League Two and are currently placed 18th. How would you describe the campaign so far?

It’s been disappointing for us to be honest. After a strong playoff run which faded away at the back end of last season, that form continued into this season and we parted company with manager James Rowberry. At one stage we were fearing the drop, and while we’re certainly not safe yet, we’re improving, and all of us at the pod believe we should have enough to stay up. But it’s not been glamourous, or all that exciting… we’ve been in 18th place for what feels like months now!

In the January transfer window, players such as Port Vale Midfielder Harry Charsley and Manchester United Forward Charlie McNeill were recruited. Were all the issues that needed to be addressed focused on?

Charsley has been a real find for us. Too frequently we’ve been a bit lightweight in midfield, both in and out of possession. And while teams can still cut through us with ease, Charsley has given a bit of bite in the middle of the park – and he’s chipped in with a few goals too, which is another issue that needed to be addressed – creativity going forwards. McNeill – and Kavanagh, another young forward on loan from Middlesbrough (Graham’s son) – have come in to inject some energy up top. They’re both clearly talented, but raw at this level. 

Newport’s manager is former Mansfield Town and Sheffield United U23 gaffer Graham Coughlan, he was appointed last October. What are your thoughts on him, his playing style and relationship with fans?

I think Coughlan’s appointment has gone down generally ok with fans. Under Coughlan we have become a bit more pragmatic in our approach, and more difficult to beat, but we’re not really setting the world alight. Coughlan has only lost 5 league games since joining us in October – we’d lost 9 before that. We’re still conceding silly goals, but fewer than before. The downside of solidifying our defensive approach has been a lack of goals up top. We have only scored more than one goal in 5 league games under him – and never more than 2. But I think the fans appreciate the turnaround he has managed to achieve – we really did fear for the drop in the autumn.

The Exiles are owned by The Supporters Trust. What are your thoughts on that and the plans that the Trust has for the club?

We were in a sticky situation a few years ago – saved by the Trust, so we’re naturally grateful for that! Our runs in the FA Cup helped solidify our finances, but we’re ultimately just looking to be sustainably and responsibly run. There’s always an ongoing debate about how and if we can inject some cash into the club, but the fans can never agree where. We don’t own Rodney Parade and we’d love to invest in training facilities. But to be honest, this is all like dreaming about how we’d spend our lottery win!

One man to watch out for on Saturday afternoon is Omar Bogle as he has netted nine in 40 games. How would you describe his playing style and importance to the side?

Omar Bogle this season started off very well, but his goals have dried up a bit, possibly due to the lack of service and creativity behind him. Of those 9 goals, only two of them have come since October, both in a home draw against Stevenage. He is still a presence up top, but our goals tend to be shared all over the pitch. 

Where will the key battles be played out at Prenton Park?

I think Tranmere will find themselves with more of the ball, and it depends on how well they can utilise that possession and turn it into clear chances. Quick passing, switching the play and getting in behind our defence will be key – but we can generally deal with the opposition keeping the ball and opting to kick it long. That said, we’ll be looking to counter, and our set pieces could be the difference too. Mickey Demetriou has a powerful long throw, although I’m sure if I looked into the success rate, we don’t score that many! Corners and free kicks though, with the likes of Priestley Farquharson towering in the box, might be more effective. 

What is your score prediction? The last time the two clubs met was in late August as Newport won 2-1, with a penalty from Omar Bogle completing the comeback victory. 

As with most aways this season, we’d bite your hand off for a draw. Give us a 1-1 and we’ll go home fairly satisfied. The last two home games between us however, that 2-1 and the 4-2 last season, have been some of the best games we’ve played. So fingers crossed we can raise our game!

What are your thoughts on The Rovers? Micky Mellon’s men have struggled this season and are currently placed 13th after getting beat 2-0 by Gillingham last time out.

Naturally, having seen Tranmere go up a few years ago (at our expense!), and then reach the playoffs again in 2021, I think we’re a bit surprised at how they’re struggling. The Gillingham game – they’ve spent a lot of money to try and climb to safety, so I wouldn’t read too much into that result. It looks like Tranmere’s recent results have been mixed, and perhaps the playoffs, despite only 8 points away, might be just out of reach this year.

Following a 1-0 away win last season, Newport are looking to win consecutive EFL visits to Tranmere for the first time. Rovers boss Micky Mellon has only won one of his seven prior meetings with The Exiles. 

Three years since Blackpool Away.

Three years since Blackpool Away. 

It was three years ago since Tranmere Rovers supporters travelled up to Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, looking to stay in League One, on a cold Tuesday night. 

Micky Mellon’s side hadn’t had a great start to the season but since the signings of key players Peter Clarke, James Vaughan, Alex Woodyard etc they were a side very much on the up. 

It was an amazing battling performance that night, a 2-1 win the final result with Morgan Ferrier and James Vaughan netting in the first half. 

Tranmere fans never stopped singing. 

What was to follow next can only be described as a farce, with the EFL putting a stop to all action but for those at the top in the midst of the COVID Pandemic. 

With Tranmere struggling in League Two now, who knows where The Whites could’ve been if the Pandemic wasn’t to happen or the EFL was to have ruled things fairly.

This is the squad that played that night and where their careers have since taken them.  

Scott Davies (Now aged 36): Retired last year after suffering a lengthy injury in 2021. 

Mark Ellis (Now aged 34): Went on loan to Notts County in 2021 before signing for Barrow in the Summer. He has made 16 appearances for Barrow but is currently on loan at York City after having loan spells away at Solihull Moors and Torquay United. 

Peter Clarke (Now aged 41): Part of Tranmere’s great in-form backline during the 2021/22 campaign, he moved on to pastures new in the Summer of ‘22 as he signed for Walsall. He is currently on loan at Oldham Athletic. 

Manny Monthe (Now aged 28): Transferred to Walsall in the Summer of ‘21 after spending three years on The Wirral.  

Calum Woods (Now aged 36): Now plays for Bala Town in the Cymru Premier, the game against Blackpool was the last time he would wear a Rovers shirt. He has since had spells at United of Manchester and in India, Kolkata, for East Bengal.

David Perkins (Now aged 40): Similar to Woods, Perkins’ last game for Rovers was that great night against Blackpool. He moved to AFC Fylde in the Summer of 2020 before moving to Northern Premier League side Bamber Bridge, he made the decision to retire last year. 

Alex Woodyard (Now aged 29): Woodyard made eleven appearances for Tranmere during his loan spell in 2020, he now plays for AFC Wimbledon and has done since the summer of 2020. 

Kane Wilson (Now aged 22): A greatly talented full-back, it was a blow for Rovers when Wilson’s loan spell ended three years ago today. After being promoted, and giving Tranmere’s left hand side a tricky afternoon in the mauling at Prenton Park, with Forest Green Rovers he is now at The Championship’s Bristol City. 

Kieron Morris (Now aged 28): Since signing on loan for Tranmere in 2018, Morris has made 149 appearances for the club and has netted sixteen. He is the only player from the squad that travelled up to Bloomfield Road to have stayed with The Whites. 

James Vaughan (Now aged 34): Vaughan signed for Tranmere on loan in the January of 2020, he made eight appearances and scored three goals for Mellon’s side during his loan spell before signing a permanent contract in the Summer. He scored eighteen goals in 29 games throughout the 2020-21 campaign but retired, after an injury, to become the club’s sporting director. He is now at boyhood club Everton as he is their Loans Pathway Manager. 

Morgan Ferrier (Now aged 28): Ferrier signed from Walsall in 2019, he was at Tranmere for two years as he hit the net five times but has since travelled a crazy journey. Maccabi Petah Tikva in Israel was his first stop before moving to Ironi Kiryat Shmona and now plys his trade in Thailand as he is at Nakhon Ratchasima, he has four goals in six games since signing for Nakhon last year. 

Connor Jennings (Now aged 31): Club Legend Jennings, having won two promotions in his time at Rovers between 2016-20, moved to Stockport County after his spell on The Wirral.  He has since battled and beaten Cancer, played for Altrincham on loan and has signed a deal with Hartlepool United as they look to remain in the EFL. 

Corey Blackett-Taylor (Now aged 25): Pacey forward Taylor spent two years at Rovers after signing his contract in 2019, he moved to Charlton Athletic in the Summer of 2021 and has netted eight in 54 games for the League One outfit. 

If you were to have anyone back at the club now, who would it be? 

With Tranmere’s goal scoring problems, it would be James Vaughan for me. 

Bloomfield Road, the venue that night. 

Gillingham FC Meeting The Opposition.

Gillingham FC Meeting the opposition. 

Despite winning two of their last three, picking up seven points in total, Tranmere made hard work of Crawley Town and Hartlepool United at Prenton Park. Thus, just how will they do against another side around the bottom of the table but this time away from home?

Gillingham are this weekend’s opponents, Neil Harris’ side had a tricky start to the season but have picked up since January as new Owner Brad Galinson immediately got on the side of supporters by having a great January Transfer Window. 

Amongst the recruits, Crawley Town Striker Tom Nichols and he will be the one to watch this Saturday with Micky Mellon’s Men struggling to find the net. 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to The Mail’s Sports Reporter Lewis Browning. 

Gillingham were relegated from League One last season and are currently placed 20th in League Two, how would you describe the campaign so far? 

The campaign has been in two separate sections. Before our takeover at Christmas, it was the most awful, gut wrenching, upsetting season I’ve ever been a part of. Our points and adoring record stood for themselves. But we’ve now been rejuvenated, had some good results and are safe. Relieving, I’d say. 

In the January window players such as Crawley Town Striker Tom Nichols, Mansfield Town Striker Tom Hawkins and Mansfield Midfielder George Lapslie were recruited. It has been described as the league’s best transfer window, by some. How have they settled in at The Gills? 

Everyone has settled pretty well. Whoever we brought in was going to be better than what we had. Nichols and Hawkins are probably my two favourite signings but Dieng and Lapslie have done their parts too, as well as Ethan Coleman, Conor Masterson and Glenn Morris. Everyone has. It was a great transfer window and we badly needed it. 

Gillingham’s manager is former Cardiff City boss Neil Harris, he was appointed last year. What are your thoughts on him, his playing style and his relationship with fans? 

It’s not been easy. He did everything but keep us up last year and was so unfortunate. This year he wasn’t the main problem at the start, but he wasn’t to blame. I wanted him gone because I was willing to do anything to try and change what we were experiencing. But he’s a new man since the new players and owners have come in, and I think he’s the man to take us forward. His playing style is a bit defensive and direct, but his track record speaks for itself, and his relationship with fans is improving each week. 

Owner Brad Galinson is relatively new. What are your thoughts on him, his relationship with fans and his plans for the club? 

He’s our saviour. As simple as that. He and his wife Shannon have transformed our club and picked it up from near death. We are thankful for the money, the passion, the ideas and the communication. I truly believe the only way is up and that’s where he’s looking. 

How important was it to find that new Owner?

It was essential, absolutely essential. The club was dying under a horrible previous owner, and it’s different now. The fans are so thankful. 

One man to watch out for on Saturday afternoon is new signing Nichols, he has struck gold three times and assisted three too – in ten games. How would you describe his playing style and the impact he has had on the team? 

He’s had a huge impact. He was the first signing of the Galinson era and maybe the most important because he brings creativity and goals. He’s a forward but a creative forward, sometimes dropping off, and likes to run with the ball and play with the ball at feet. He’s been a really good signing. 

Where will the key battles be played out at The Priestfield Stadium?

We’ve been really solid at the back recently and Tranmere haven’t exactly been free-flowing so I think whether they can break us down will be one to keep an eye on. We’ve not been free-scoring either, failing to score in our last three, so I suppose the age-old attack versus defence for both sides will be key. 

What is your score prediction? The last time the two clubs met was in mid August, at Prenton Park, as Rovers won 3-0. The goalscorers that day were Elliott Nevitt, Ethan Bristow and Josh Dacres-Cogley. 

I think we’ll win, maybe 1-0. We’re a completely different side now and we’re at home, which is big for us. Due a result too, I think. 

What are your thoughts on The Whites? Micky Mellon’s side have picked up seven points from their last three games but have been consistently inconsistent this season.

Disappointing, to be honest. Like you say, the side have been inconsistent and many expected them to be a lot higher than they are in the table. A play-off finish isn’t out of the question but looks unlikely. I suppose your season has a danger of petering out into nothing, like ours, for a worse reason.

Gillingham FC’s Priestfield Stadium.

Tranmere have won three of their last games here, but the last time Rovers came here they were defeated 2-0 in 2014.

Crawley Town FC meeting the opposition.

Crawley Town FC Meeting the opposition questions (GAME 28-02-23). 

Tranmere Rovers come into Tuesday’s clash against Crawley Town, on the back of an away win against second placed Stevenage.

It was a penalty struck by Josh Hawkes, as regular taker Kane Hemmings is out with injury, that broke the deadlock. 

There is a feeling by many that The Rovers are well out of the Play-off chase as Micky Mellon’s men are currently placed 13th.

However, a win against 23rd placed Crawley could add to the recent three points and spark a great run of form. Is there time for some optimism? 

Ahead of the game I spoke to the Chair of the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance about all things Red Devils.

Hi Reuben, you chair the Crawley Town Supporters Association. How long have you been doing that and what does that role entail? 

Back in October, I was made the interim chair of the CTSA. Last week, I dropped the word interim when I was elected by the board to be chair! I have the privilege of being able to lead a 500 member strong and the only Crawley Supporters group of any kind. At the moment, the main bit of the role is liaising with the owners and the acting CEO of the club, holding them to account whilst also encouraging honesty and transparency from them

Crawley finished 12th last season and are currently in the relegation zone. How would you describe the campaign and what are the reasons behind the poor form?

Shocking, poor, and unexpected. We should be anywhere but the relegation zone. We have been poor in the January transfer window, letting go of key players (Tom Nichols and Glen Morris) to relegation rivals, and having managers who are not equipped for the football league.

In the January Window players such as midfielder Ben Gladwin, from Swindon, and defender Kellan Gordon, from Mansfield, were signed. Were the issues that needed to be addressed focused on? 

I think in both Gladwin and Gordon we have improved in those areas. However, right now we lack goals and lack any depth in midfield. We have been really unlucky with injuries.

The Red Devils have had three men at the helm this season, the current man Scott Lindsey is formerly of Swindon Town. What are your thoughts on him, His relationship with fans and his playing style? 

You could argue that we have had 5 different people manage games this season (Betsy, Young, Etherington, Byfield and now Lindsey)! We seem to be playing better football under Lindsey that we have done in the best but right now, it still isn’t good enough. Will it come with time? Probably. Will it be too late by the time the team clicks and works on a solid formation? Probably. Lindsey is passionate and always has time for the fans.  

It is the relatively controversial WAGMI United Cryptocurrency group that are the owners of Crawley. They have been at the club since April 2022. What are your thoughts on them, their current plans and their relationship with fans?

Right now they need football people in the club which is what they have been lacking since they came in. If they had a strong CEO with proper football experience then I don’t think we’d be in the position we are in. We would certainly not be the laughing stock of the football league. WAGMI United promises honesty and transparency but as of yet, they have not given that. 

One man to watch out for on Tuesday night is striker Dominic Telford, he has struck gold eight times and assisted two in 29 games. How would you describe his playing style? 

What he needs is the supply. Get the ball down to his feet and in the box and he will score. 

Where will the key battles be played out at Prenton Park? 

We haven’t won an away game this season and so for us, keeping a clean sheet is a priority. In Kane Hemmings, you have a player who will cause us difficulties. However, hopefully with Ashley Nadesan’s pace for us, we will be able to utilise it and score a couple.

What is your score prediction? The two clubs are yet to meet this season but The Whites won three of the three ties last year, all by one goal. 

I need to be optimistic and so I think Crawley will win 2 – 1 with Telford and Joel Lynch scoring. 

What are your thoughts on The Rovers? Micky Mellon’s side are positioned 13th and come into this one having beaten Stevenage 1-0 away from home.

I have always been impressed with Tranmere whenever I have seen them play and with you beating a strong Stevenage team, it shows that perhaps you are in a bit of a false position. Prenton Park is always a difficult place to come with a strong crowd, especially on a Tuesday night.

Tranmere have lost one of their last six home matches, last time out against Mansfield Town. Tuesday’s visitors have won none of their away games all season, it won’t come here … will it? 

Tranmere were at the top of League One…

When Tranmere Ruled League 1… For Two and a Half Months in 2012

For twelve games at the start of the 2012/13 season, Tranmere played some of the most electrifying football that the club had seen since the John King era, matching hard work with skill as they stormed to the top of the league. While somewhat ephemeral, it was also fantastic. Ronnie Moore had returned to Tranmere in March 2012 to arrest an alarming slide down the League 1 table. Replacing Les Parry after a run of 1 win in 20 matches, Moore galvanised the club, dragging them to safety with 6 wins and 4 draws from their final 13 games of the season. This run of form carried over the summer and into the start of the following campaign.

The bulk of the squad remained from the year before, allowing Moore to simply tweak what was already in place, rather than starting from scratch. The backline was built around Owain Fon Williams in goal, with Danny Holmes, Zoumana Bakayogo and Ash Taylor three quarters of a watertight defence that kept 6 clean sheets in their first 12 league games. The final piece of the jigsaw was Middlesbrough loanee Ben Gibson, signed to help ease an injury crisis in central defence. Gibson was largely unknown, a 19-year old graduate from the Boro academy with little league football under his belt. Not that this mattered. Gibson was the proverbial old head on young shoulders, with a comfort on the ball that stood him in good stead for a career further up the pyramid.

In midfield, Andy Robinson’s guile complimented Bakayogo’s pace from left back, with Robinson cutting infield and Bakayogo keeping the pitch as wide as possible with his overlapping runs. Moore had pulled off something of a coup by signing the highly rated James Wallace permanently from Everton. At just 20, Wallace had been handed the captain’s armband by his manager. Possessing a fine passing range, leadership and drive, Wallace was inspirational in the centre of the park. Alongside him, Liam Palmer arrived on loan from Sheffield Wednesday. Another relative youngster, Palmer was comfortable in possession and happy to keep circulating the ball with simple passes. Vying for the starting place on the right of the midfield four were Joe Thompson and Abdulai Bell-Baggie, both direct wingers harking back to the days of Johnny Morrissey and Pat Nevin.

The front two were Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Jake Cassidy. Cassidy had scored 5 goals in 10 appearances at the tail end of the previous season for Tranmere while on loan from Wolves. This run of form had convinced his parent club to allow him to return to Prenton Park for the first half of the next season. Akpa Akpro was a more maverick forward hailing from France and capable of producing moments of magic, as his song attested. Their different attributes worked well in concert, while permitting both to regularly find the back of the net.

What followed was as surprising as it was entertaining. Tranmere scored 29 goals in their opening dozen games, conceding just 8, and playing attractive, free-flowing football that propelled them to the top of the League 1 table. It was in stark contrast to Moore’s previous spell at the club. Operating with a comparatively limited budget, Moore assembled industrious sides that were often more than the sum of their parts, yet sprinkled with a touch of creativity. Despite their modest means, Tranmere finished 9th, 11th and 7th in successive years under Moore, with the play offs never being too far away. Indeed Moore spoke of his shock at being dismissed following his 3rd season at the helm.

On his return, Moore’s team played with a greater level of expansion that resulted in something of a goal glut, with Cassidy, Robinson and Akpa Akpro the men chiefly responsible, and Cassidy and Robinson both netting hat tricks by the start of September. While goals flew in at one end, the Taylor-GIbson axis was defensively sound at the other. The 6 clean sheets recorded from the opening 12 games was testament to that.

Opening the season with a resounding 3-1 home win against Leyton Orient, Rovers followed that up by beating Carlisle 3-0 at Brunton Park thanks to an incredible trio of goals from Robinson, that included two directly from free kicks. After salvaging a point away at Shrewsbury via a late Akpa Akpro goal, Tranmere then kept 4 consecutive clean sheets while putting four goals past Colchester, with Cassidy notching a hat trick of his own, and seeing off Coventry and Bury comfortably. An away trip to Crawley put Rovers in an unfamiliar position. Having gone ahead early, the Whites were suddenly 2-1 down. A surge down the left from Bakayogo, who picked out Cassidy, levelled the scores, before Akpa Akpro nudged the visitors ahead after the break. Cassidy pounced again to extend the lead, with Robinson rounding off the scoring as Tranmere came away from a barmy game 5-2 winners. Brentford’s 96th minute equaliser stopped the league leaders from recording a fourth straight victory, however it mattered little, as Moore’s men secured two away wins from their next two fixtures, against Scunthorpe and Notts County respectively. The win at Meadow Lane had come at a cost, however. Akpa Akpro had limped off with a fractured metatarsal and would be out for around 3 months. It was a precursor to what would ultimately derail Rovers’ season.

When Yeovil arrived at Prenton Park in mid-October they stunned all in attendance by racing into a 2-goal lead before half an hour had been played. Wallace headed home on the stroke of half time to cut the deficit and rally the home side into mounting a comeback. Just six minutes into the second half and Cassidy had drawn the hosts level, before Holmes completed the turnaround with 12 minutes to play.

The performance epitomised the early part of the season. Moore’s more usual attributes of grit and determination were blended with the creativity that had been on display throughout the campaign so far, to see his side collect 30 points from their first 12 games. It was a remarkable situation, made even more remarkable by the fact that Cassidy, Robinson and Akpa Akpro were all among the leading goal scorers in the division.

Ultimately, injuries would scupper the chances of the team fighting for promotion. Wallace was injured in an FA Cup tie against Chesterfield in December and spent nearly a year out, while Gibson, Robinson and Akpa Akpro all picked up lengthy injuries of their own. Cassidy’s loan was not extended and he played his final game for Tranmere that season on 1st January. The table toppers of late summer and early autumn would never get to play together again once Akpa Akpro hobbled off against Notts County. But what a late summer and early autumn it had been.

Mansfield Town FC meeting the opposition.

Mansfield Town FC meeting the opposition. 

On Saturday afternoon, Nigel Clough’s Mansfield Town travel to Prenton Park to face Tranmere Rovers. 

Rovers have greatly struggled to build any consistency this campaign however one shining light has been their home form, with wins against Leyton Orient and play-off chasers Salford City in the past month. 

The Stags are unbeaten in their last five, with a 4-0 away win against Carlisle United on Tuesday night thus they will be in high spirits going into this one. 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Town supporter Sam Binch. 

After finishing 7th in League Two last season, Mansfield Town are currently placed sixth. How would you describe the campaign so far? 

Been a bit of a strange one as for most of it we’ve been inconsistent but still found ourselves in the play-off mix. A bit below where we want to be but we’re in some of our best form of the season ahead of this game.

Do you believe that the team is looking much better this season? If so, why? 

No, for the most part I would say we haven’t hit the heights of last season as of yet in terms or performance levels, but the results are starting to come.

In the January window, four players were brought in including attacking midfielder Davis Keillor-Dunn from Burton Albion. Were the issues that needed to be addressed focused on? 

A lot of them were addressed. We needed a dominant, natural centre back and Alfie Kilgour fits that bill, he’s also scored 3 in 4! Callum Johnson looked impressive at wing back, very solid and a threat going forward. Louis Reed added bite to the midfield and experience at a higher level, and Keillor-Dunn has added guile to the attack, his first touch is excellent and allows us to get up the pitch. Unfortunately Johnson and Reed are now injured. The only position we’re lacking a natural replacement for is left back/wing back. 

Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough, what are your thoughts on him? His playing style and his relationship with fans? 

Some of his decision making and tactical decisions are frustrating at times but he has improved the team incrementally each season so far and will be looking to do the same again this season. I think he’s proved he can produce a team that can be in and around the top seven but it’s yet to be seen if they can go that extra step.

Carolyn and John Radford are the Owners, thoughts on them and their relationship with fans? Are there any current great plans in place? 

Nobody can question their generosity in terms of finances, they generally provide all a manager could want. Their managerial appointments/sackings over the years can be questioned but it will be a very sad day if they ever decided to step away.

Will Swan is top scorer with nine goals in 26 games, George Lapslie is another player worth keeping an eye on as the 25-year-old has six goals and five assists in 28 games. How would you describe their playing styles? 

George Lapslie has moved to Gillingham in the transfer window. Will Swan has been relegated to impact sun as of late, with the preferred partnership being Akins and Keillor-Dunn. Akins is the hold up man and when his touch is good it’s a role he excels in. Keillor-Dunn buzzes around and gets involved in the build up.

Where will the key battles be played out on Saturday? 

Whoever continues to fill in at left wing back, probably Wallace or Bowery, will need to perform again out of position.

Score prediction? The last game between Tranmere and Mansfield resulted in a 1-0 victory for The Stags, Riley Harbottle netting on the hour mark. 

I can see a draw, 1-1.

Thoughts on Micky Mellon’s Rovers? Would you say a Play-off spot for May is a realistic ambition? 

I think they’ll end up mid table, there seems to be a weird vibe around the club at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much ambition for the club to push on.

Tranmere are unbeaten in their last five home games and a win this weekend may take them up to tenth in the League Two table. 

It is their away form that will need to change if they are to mount a serious play-off push. 

Bradford City FC meeting the opposition.

Bradford City meeting the opposition. 

Other than a lack of quality at times, Tranmere Rovers’ biggest problem this season has been their consistency. 

On Saturday afternoon, Micky Mellon’s men beat Salford City 1-0 with a first half strike from Kieron Morris. Can The Whites back up their performance when they travel to Valley Parade this Tuesday night? Time will tell. 

Mark Hughes’ Bradford are currently placed eighth and are in fine form having beat Stevenage 3-2 on the weekend. 

Bantams supporter Adam Sopf spoke to me about all things City ahead of the game.  

How long have you been supporting Bradford? What are some of your best and worst moments supporting the club?

I’ve been going since I was about 14. The FA Cup run in the 14/15 season was probably one of the best moments and nothing has matched it since. The past 5 years of supporting City have been pretty depressing so I could pick any moment from then.

After finishing 14th last season, The Bantams are currently positioned 9th and have failed to win any of their last three (Mark Hughes’ side will play away at Stevenage before the game against Tranmere). How would you describe the campaign so far?

It’s the first season in a long time where you can tell we’re starting to move forward as a club and starting to do things right off the pitch. I think most City fans expected us to be a bit higher up the table at this stage of the season, but Mark Hughes has the backing of the majority of fans. We’ve shown glimpses of how well we can really play but at the same time it’s also been frustrating because of how inconsistent we can be. 

How has last summer’s recruitment fared? Players such as Timi Odusina, Centre back from Hartlepool. Winger Harry Chapman from Blackburn Rovers and Striker Vadaine Oliver from Gillingham were brought in.

The summer saw a huge revamp in the squad. The quality of the recruitment has been head and shoulders above anything we’ve had in the past 5 years thanks to the appointment of Stephen Gent as head of recruitment. Gents’ most impressive piece of business was uncovering a hidden gem of a goalkeeper, Harry Lewis. This man is an incredible shot-stopper, calm on the ball, has quality distribution and he’s only 25. Lewis is going to be playing a lot higher than League Two in a few years. 

In the January window seven players were brought in, either on loan or on a permanent deal, to cover all areas of the pitch. Do you feel enough was done to address the issues the side had?

Our main issue going into January was the lack of midfielders. It was probably our weakest part of the pitch and teams would dominate us in midfield. The signing of the experienced Adam Clayton from Doncaster has helped us massively but we’re still a bit light in that area. Unfortunately, we lost Tyreik Wright to Plymouth in January and none of his replacements (Nevers and Costelloe) look anywhere near as good as he was. Time will tell if January made us stronger or weaker. I’m sitting on the fence.

Bradford’s manager is arguably the best in the league, former Stoke and Manchester City boss Mark Hughes. Thoughts on him, his playing style and his relationship with supporters?

Mark Hughes normally likes to play out from the back starting from the goalkeeper whilst playing a 4-2-3-1 but after a poor run of form, he’s switched it up slightly to play more direct to the frontmen and currently plays a narrow diamond in midfield. Most fans are behind Mark Hughes due to the maturity he’s brought to the club. Our fans can be very fast to jump on a manager’s back but that hasn’t often happened this season. I think he’s earned the respect of many because of what he’s done in the game.

Stefan Rupp is the Owner. Thoughts on him? What would you like to see being changed at the club in the near future?

We never really hear much about him, to be honest. I think he’s been to one or maybe two games since the start of the pandemic but to be fair to him he keeps us afloat and puts money in but one day I would like to see someone with a bit more of a footballing vision. We have to thank him for not selling us to those clowns at Crawley!

Tranmere promotion winner Andy Cook is top scorer with seventeen goals in thirty games. How would you describe his playing style and who are the other key players?

Andy Cooks is so much more than just a target man. He’s been one of the best strikers we’ve had over the past 10 years and everyone loves him. His finishing ability is deadly, just give him one sniff at goal and 9 times out of 10 it’s IN the back of the net. Jamie Walker is another key player. He was probably our marquee signing from the summer but he’s been out most of the season. His form has just started to pick up as he gets a run of games.

Where will the key battles be played on Tuesday? Score prediction?

The key battles will definitely be in the middle as we’ve been looking to overload it over the past few games. If you keep Andy Cook quiet then we don’t really have another goal threat. The Stevenage win will have given us a big boost in confidence, I’m going 2-0 City.

Thoughts on The Rovers? Where do you see them finishing in May?

You’re very inconsistent this season, results-wise, but you’ve done okay after a tough run of fixtures. I think you’ll finish mid table.

Bradford City’s Valley Parade. Rovers will look to find some consistency in their performance when they travel here on Tuesday night having drawn there last season.

Salford City meeting the opposition.

Salford City FC meeting the opposition.

Following Tranmere’s defeat away to Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night, The Whites are back in action this weekend when they play host to Salford City. 

Rovers signed five players in the January window, all of which excited fans however they are yet to register a win since the transfer window slammed shut. 

Salford are placed fifth thus will provide a challenge to Mellon’s men. 

I spoke to Ammies supporter Adam Franks ahead of the game. 

How long have you been supporting Salford? What are some of your best and worst experiences following the club?

I’ve supported the club since 2007, my Nana’s next door neighbour was a player at the time, Matty Burke. So because of the connections I went on down. 

My personal best experience has got to be beating Fylde at Wembley to secure promotion to the EFL.

My personal worst experience was losing to Halifax in the National League North play-offs when we got beat on penalties. 

What are your thoughts on the campaign so far with The Ammies currently positioned fifth?

I’m really impressed with the quality of football we’ve been producing. We as every club have to adjust to a new manager’s way of playing but we’ve adapted well and it’s showing. 

Former Manchester United U23’s boss Neil Wood was given his first senior managerial role last summer when he took charge of Salford. What are your thoughts on him, his playing style and his relationship with fans? 

When the appointment was made I didn’t want to be too hasty with my opinion but obviously he’s been at United for so long so he clearly knows what he’s doing. 

In a way I preferred a manager who was ‘under the radar’ than a big name appointment as that just adds unwanted pressure.

Was it right to replace the experienced Gary Bowyer with him?

Gary did exceptionally well with us and it was a shame we missed out on the play offs, I did think it was a shame to see him leave. 

How successfully do you believe The Class of 92 are running the club? What are some of the current plans that are exciting supporters?

The Class of 92 are doing an incredible job. They are trying to bring back the non league feel to a football league club however there are no plans that I can think of. 

The January transfer window saw two players join the club, Striker Callum Morton from Fleetwood Town and Winger Shane McCloughlin from Morecambe. Are you happy with the business conducted in the Winter?

I am very impressed with the two signings, both lads who have great potential. I’m impressed with the signing of Cairns too and I hope we can secure him on a permanent deal.

Former Rovers creative midfielder Ryan Watson now plays for Salford, how successful has he been since his move last year?

Ryan has been unreal and it’s one of the main reasons my football club invested in him as his sponsor. He came in and brought a new exciting energy that we needed. 

The Ammies’ top scorer is Connor McAleny with eight goals in 17 games, how would you describe his playing style and who are the other one’s to watch?

Connor has just come back from injury and is currently playing out of his skin. I honestly believe this is down to the fact he’s being given a free role to show what he can do. 

What is your score prediction for the upcoming match? The last meeting between the two club’s saw a first half Josh Hawkes strike win the game for Tranmere.

2-1 Salford, last minute from Watson. 

Thoughts on Micky Mellon’s side so far this season? Rovers, who have been very inconsistent, are placed 14th (at time of writing). 

They’re scoring goals but also conceding a lot and it’s an inconsistency Salford need to take full advantage of.

Tranmere Rovers are back at Prenton Park this weekend. Three points could see them fired up to tenth, if results go their way. 

Nate’s game.

On Tuesday 7th February, a year will have passed since the tragic loss of Nate Gidman, the five-year-old who bravely fought a lengthy battle with Medulloblastoma – a cancerous brain tumour. 

It was a battle that brought Tranmere supporters, and the wider community together, as Nate’s father Phil told his story via social media during a time in which the globe was fighting the impact of the COVID pandemic. 

‘I hope that people don’t have to go through what we went through’. 

Phil explained: ‘His death was a massive loss to the family and you could feel it in the community as well, it was humbling how people responded when I broke the news. There were a lot of people championing him up until his death, there was a lot of light in the darkness which really helped’. 

Nate’s smile and his willingness to play, like any other child would do, captured the hearts of everyone who was living through the story across the published tweets which would include photos and videos.

‘It was only up until his final days where he was trying to aspire to be happy, be a little kid with a spring in his step. He was more interested in playing than being sick and poorly’. 

‘The care workers always said that if it was an adult they would be down but kids just want to play and that’s how he was’.

‘His strength was something to aspire to, he showed immense strength, courage and determination whilst something so vicious was growing in his head but the cancer was to win’.

As a result of Nate’s fight, he will forever be remembered, and the club’s owners ensured that this was the case by adorning their community tickets scheme with the youngster’s name.

‘Having Nate’s tickets formed was amazing. I got a call from Mark Palios and one of the first things he said was that he wanted to check-in after the noise had calmed down and that meant a lot to show that he still cares’. 

‘He opened the idea to keep Nate’s name alive with the club and he said to take my time with the idea but I didn’t need to. It was a massive honour’. 

‘Football continues to be a massive distraction for me as I try to navigate through the grief process, the fact that we can lend my son’s name to a scheme that does the same for others is great’. 

‘It’s not just a cancer-related thing, it’s something that can help a community that I care massively about’.

It was a special moment seeing Nate on the Prenton Park pitch ahead of a Tranmere game, kicking the ball into the net and his father embracing the Kop End’s celebration for him, a moment which came mere weeks before his passing. 

However, there was to be further emotion on the Wirral when Rovers forward Kane Hemmings struck in the fifth minute of a game in the same week as Nate’s death.

‘Seeing Hemmings score that goal was so special. I spoke to captain Peter Clarke after the game and he was saying that the plan was to kick the ball out of play and applaud but Hemmings did something better, it was so euphoric’. 

Phil confirms that Nate’s death touched more than just Tranmere Rovers supporters, explaining how it even brought men from five-a-side teams together. 

‘I received messages from random blokes and they were saying that it made them talk about their own losses. There was a guy who said that his mate opened up for the first time about his miscarriage, it came from a lot of people just being open and inspired by Nate’. 

Sands United, a team formed by bereaved family members, would soon contact Phil asking him to be involved in a game raising money for CCLG, Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group. 

‘When Sands got in touch it was fairly close to Nate’s passing, it was their captain Andy who is from the Wirral but lives in Colchester who asked if I wanted to play in the game. I was interested but I didn’t know whether I’d be able to assemble a team’.

Andy would later get in touch with Rover and Out, who asked Phil to play for Nate before the away game at Colchester. Phil’s excitement for the game grew when he learned more about Sands United.

‘I thought it was fantastic that they had this community, they had a group that helped them get through their issues’.

Phil lives in Lincoln thus it was a long journey, but he admits ‘It was lovely to share that moment and know they were willing to help me raise money for charity.’

‘I want to use my experiences, position, abilities and support network to help charities that help other less fortunate people. It’s really important, it’s an honour for me’. 

I was quite shocked to hear the truth about the money placed into children’s fights with cancer.

‘Children get less than 4% of the budget for cancer treatments, it’s a hideous figure that may even be less. There are treatments being pioneered all the time but some treatments being used on Nate were introduced in the 1960’s, you’d be stunned if you looked into it’. 

Phil explains that the game has also had a significant impact on his mental and physical health, motivating him to avoid ‘vile’ hospital food along with junk food. 

‘To have my mind on the game is the carrot on the stick, to use an old cliche. This year the game will be on the same week as the anniversary of his death and through the game, me and Nicola (his wife) have made many friends to share the experience with’.

‘I got to 15 stone and I’m only a little bloke so my fitness for the game was ridiculous, I couldn’t walk for a few days after it, it was monstrous. I’m still a fat little thing but I’ve been taking some care of myself this time round so I’ll be able to hold up a little bit better’. 

Before gathering some of the match details, I felt it was important to hear more about the people that Phil will be playing alongside. 

‘There’ll be friends on the team, I’m having some of my friends who are based in my area who have been absolute rocks with me. One of my mates is a big Dortmund fan and he drove over to get me before we went down to Colchester together. I’ve got a friend coming up from London’.

‘I respect Sands United a lot but I do want to beat them, let’s have that clear! You can’t not respect Sands’ commitment to travel up here, it will be a competitive game’.

Despite being so out of shape, Phil managed to pop up with the winner last year.

‘It was euphoric, it finished 6-4 as both team’s forgot how to defend, there were some great scenes. I was charging down as the game was getting to an end before my mate picked me out with a blinder of a pass, it was the easiest of tap in’s. I celebrated like I had won the World Cup’. 

The game this time round will be played at New Ferry Park on Saturday 11th February with a 10.30am start. There will be collection buckets with raffle prizes. 

‘We hope it’s just a bit of fun. We have raised a fantastic amount of money already, around £1,600. The money will be going directly towards the CCLG group, you’re only going to get better treatments and prognosis’ with financial backing’. 

It wouldn’t be right to finish off a conversation with Phil without talking about Tranmere’s chances of achieving promotion, despite their inconsistent form. 

‘I’ve already booked the Play-offs weekend off, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be in and around it as I believe the issues we have seen have all been addressed carefully in the transfer window. Harvey Saunders has been great, his movement and tenacity’. 

‘We can’t have any complaints now’.

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